Unusual Suspects

The Usual Suspects spends its final act asking who Keyser Soze is. A mystery man, a legend, a killer. The better question is who are Fenster, Verbal, Keaton, McManus, and Hockney?

That’s what Usual Suspects is asking, creating a rich and varied lot of criminal behavior. The title is rather genius in that each man fits a stereotype, usuals, even if they’re unusual. As a mix, they bridge white collar and blue collar crime, brought together seemingly on purpose, knowing their thirst for a quick hit will bond them. Fenster (Benicio Del Toro) barely speaks a legible word. Verbal (Kevin Spacey) can only use half his body. Keaton (Gabriel Byrne) seeks reform from this life, living in posh style.

Usual Suspects uses modern noir trappings and aesthetics to suggest a derivative story

They’re social oddities, eccentrics even, who see themselves not only smarter than each other, but the law too. Soze exists as a figment, a tall tale; this group makes the real, known thing, lined up and processed, plus accused of ever greater felonies.

Mystery looms over Usual Suspects, shot luxuriously, even evocatively to give these men a certain movie glamour. Yet darkness usually envelops them, hiding their presence. Interrogation rooms blind them, contrasting their existences between the inside and outside. Society views them as rejects – the usual – and yet the script delights in their purpose, their style, and their personalities.

For the true uncertainty Usual Suspects puts this crew under, few ever show it. Their confidence rarely breaks among each other. Weakness will get them killed, and at no point does anyone truly trust the other. Their mindset and thoughts prove alluring. Meanwhile, Usual Suspects employs tricks and gags to set up an oft-referenced (even parodied) finale with the same smugness exhibited by the characters.

As they fall into an obvious set-up, the gang seems moronic. How can they not see their inevitable fall? It’s all a trap. In the ultimate wink and egotistical smirk, turns out the movie was smarter than everyone, viewers included. There’s nothing usual about this caper at all, even as Usual Suspects uses modern noir trappings and aesthetics to suggest a derivative story. It’s genius storytelling, and even greater filmmaking.

Video

Flushed with color, Kino’s Usual Suspects enhances every primary. Flesh tones glow, the vibrancy borderline extreme. It’s intense, but attractive.

Exceptional resolution brings out precise grain, and the encoding doesn’t choke, even with the steamier cinematography. Incredible fidelity draws out facial definition in every scene, whether mid-range or close-up. Sharpness keeps a consistent high point, texture stellar, and the finest details pop from the frame. Interrogation scenes take a softer, less defined aesthetic as Spacey takes his verbal drubbing. That’s the only variance.

Using intense contrast to put suspects under heated lights, that’s the only clipping to note, and intentional. The difference maker is the Dolby Vision, making those lights more intense than before. That goes for the entire contrast, from flames to exterior daylight. Black levels leave their mark, rich, dense, and potent.

Audio

Available in stereo and 5.1 – both DTS-HD – Usual Suspects produces a fine if unremarkable soundstage. Mild ambiance in police stations, slightly directional voices, and a widely spaced score keep the activity consistent.

Music expands range by catching the subwoofer (a little). A messy boat explosion needs a refresh as the rumbling lacks firmness. Gunfire sounds slightly better, adding a more organic kick.

Extras

Two commentaries open this one, the first pairing director Bryan Singer with writer Christopher McQuarrie. The second sends editor John Ottman into the booth alone. Ottman returns for a separate interview segment, and cinematographer Newton Thomas Sigel comes next. Five older featurettes are brought over from previous releases, with a gag reel and deleted scenes capping Usual Suspects 4K debut.

The Usual Suspects
  • Video
  • Audio
  • Extras

Movie

Driven by compelling personalities and a famously grand twist, The Usual Suspects brings the classic noir into modern view.

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4 (8 votes)

The following six screen shots serve as samples for our subscription-exclusive set of 43 full resolution uncompressed 4K screen shots grabbed directly from the UHD: